Saturday, November 16, 2019

The New Double Truth Theory

Many years ago, during the Benedict XVI pontificate, I drew attention to a phenomenon which I dubbed Catholic "dogma ex voce" ("from the voice"). The essential observation of this post was that contemporary dissenters, embarrassed by the Church's traditional teachings, must use the subterfuge of contradicting them in lower level pronouncements in order to promote their garbage while being able to affirm the facade that the Church has "never changed" its teaching because the official pronouncements remain unchallenged. In that article from 2010, I wrote:

Obviously and thankfully, [authoritative declarations] cannot be gotten rid of. They can be ignored and wished away, but they will not go away. Definitive, infallible ex cathedra statements remain for all time and are irreformable of their very nature. No matter how much any bishop or cardinal would like to contradict or get rid of these dogmatic heirlooms, they cannot.
Yet, though these declarations will not go away, there is a way that the hierarchy has found to get around this problem. I have noticed that, in areas where the modern hierarchy takes vastly different positions than the traditional Church, novel positions are not given to the faithful by means of encyclicals or dogmatic statements, but are found throughout lower-level pronouncements, such as speeches, letters, addresses, bishops' statements etc. By repeating these novel positions again and again in very low-level pronouncements, the faithful get accustomed to hearing certain novelties "from the Church" and over time come to accept them as "Church teaching."

Though these sorts of novelties are not "official", they are spewed out with such regularity and from so many sources that the stupid Catholic faithful eventually come to associate them with "Church teaching" and accept them as "dogma" uncritically. It is essentially the old adage that a lie, repeated enough, becomes taken as the truth. This is how the propaganda machine of dogma ex voce works to slowly undermine Catholic tradition while maintaining that the Church has not essentially "changed."

This has been going on for a long time; in my original article, I cite examples of it from the pontificate of John Paul II. Benedict XVI himself did it all the time in his personal writings and statements. Really its a post-conciliar phenomenon grounded in attempts to push the Spirit of Vatican II whilst simultaneously trying to reconcile the conciliar documents with traditional teaching, the old conservative Catholic two-step dance.

But in recent years it has reached new levels of intensity such that the Church really seems to be breaking down under a kind of institutional schizophrenia. The Amazon Synod brought this to the fore more than ever. The way things are developing, this practice has virtually evolved into a kind of "Double Truth Theory." The Double Truth theorem was an hypothesis proposed by the Latin Averroists of the 13th century as a means of reconciling philosophical principles which challenged Catholic dogma. Essentially, the Averroists asserted that religion and philosophy, as separate sources of knowledge, might arrive at contradictory truths without detriment to either—that something may be true from a philosophical perspective whilst being false from a theological perspective and vice verse. It was the opening salvo in a long war to detach philosophy (and science) from theology while being able to still affirm theological truths—in other words, to be able to affirm error while still paying lip-service to the Church's official pronouncements.

The Double Truth Theory, of course, is nonsense. There is only one truth, but we apprehend it under different modes or ways of knowledge. But ultimately if something is true, it cannot contradict another truth, be that truth philosophical, theological, moral, scientific, or whatever. We cannot say contradictory statements are all true, no matter how badly we might want to. Very rightly did St. Thomas Aquinas reject the Double Truth theorem as the nonsense that it is.

But is that not the very situation we see the hierarchy attempting to foist on us at the moment? Being at least nominally Catholic, these theologians and prelates cannot openly deny the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils or solemn pronouncements of the Church, nor contradict them with new solemn pronouncements. But what they can do is contradict those teachings through the ex voce method—ignoring the official pronouncements while making a slew of contradictory statements on the "unofficial" level: speeches, interviews, magazine articles, books, homilies, letters, and so on. In a pinch they can always claim that the Magisterium has not taught anything contrary to the faith—where "taught" is understood in a very specified way as a solemn teaching. But meanwhile they go about undermining the faith at every opportunity they can in a torrent of constant heterodoxy while expecting the faithful to believe that nothing substantial has changed. And meanwhile actual heretics (like Fr. James Martin) are permitted to continue spreading their poison unhindered, further lending credence to that the novelties being vomited out all over today are in fact "Church teaching."

They know exactly what they are doing as well. When they are among themselves or in gatherings of supporters, they openly boast of how they are undoing Catholic tradition and leading the Church into a brave new world.

In the old days, Catholic teaching served as a bulwark against the introduction of error because it was known that official Catholic teaching is irreformable. The modernists have gotten around this today, not by trying to overthrow the official teaching, but by simply leading us to a place where official teaching no longer matters. "Catholic dogma" is whatever the leaders of the Church happen to be bloviating about in their press conferences and interviews.


Peter Kwasniewski said...

This is a very good article.

I would recommend reading Thomas Pink's three-part piece at The Josias about what he calls "official theology" (your "ex voce" category), which he distinguishes from the Magisterium proper. It's a very insightful analysis.

Alexander Verbum said...

Sounds similar to what was explained in Pascendi:

"This becomes still clearer to anybody who studies the conduct of Modernists, which is in perfect harmony with their teachings. In the writings and addresses they seem not unfrequently to advocate now one doctrine now another so that one would be disposed to regard them as vague and doubtful. But there is a reason for this, and it is to be found in their ideas as to the mutual separation of science and faith. Hence in their books you find some things which might well be expressed by a Catholic, but in the next page you find other things which might have been dictated by a rationalist. When they write history they make no mention of the divinity of Christ, but when they are in the pulpit they profess it clearly; again, when they write history they pay no heed to the Fathers and the Councils, but when they catechize the people, they cite them respectfully. In the same way they draw their distinctions between theological and pastoral exegesis and scientific and historical exegesis. So, too, acting on the principle that science in no way depends upon faith, when they treat of philosophy, history, criticism, feeling no horror at treading in the footsteps of Luther, they are wont to display a certain contempt for Catholic doctrines, or the Holy Fathers, for the Ecumenical Councils, for the ecclesiastical magisterium; and should they be rebuked for this, they complain that they are being deprived of their liberty. Lastly, guided by the theory that faith must be subject to science, they continuously and openly criticize the Church because of her sheer obstinacy in refusing to submit and accommodate her dogmas to the opinions of philosophy; while they, on their side, after having blotted out the old theology, endeavor to introduce a new theology which shall follow the vagaries of their philosophers."

c matt said...

When they write history they make no mention of the divinity of Christ, but when they are in the pulpit they profess it clearly; again, when they write history they pay no heed to the Fathers and the Councils, but when they catechize the people, they cite them respectfully.

If it were only that - now, they have dropped the pretense of professing Christ's divinity in the pulpit or bothering to cite the Fathers or any council prior to the Titanic Council V II.

Fr. VF said...

I have lost count of the number of times I have heard "conservative" Catholics say that Bergoglio "has not changed Church teaching." This article perfectly describes the hoodwinking process. And there's a bonus for Bergoglio and his Flying Monkeys: The "orthodox" commentariat have, a priori, determined that they won't even LOOK at anything but a formal, solemn, ex cathedra definition from Bergoglio as a potential specimen of heresy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, this is very interesting.

Sexual morality and church-state relations are obvious examples of this. But to you think something similar might have happened with the Church's teaching on money? At my diocesan TLM (and during my occassional visits to FSSP), I've never heard a sermon about the dangers of avarice.

I find this strange. Looking at myself, I find the tenth commandment a far, far tougher one to keep than the sixth or ninth. And from what little I know of my traddy friends, I believe the same applies to them. Catholic teaching on money, as far as I can tell, is that it's good (in the Thomistic sense) per se, but very dangerous. Our Lord, and the rest of the NT, have nothing good to say about it. St Francis de Sales compares it to a dangerous drug that one might keep at home for good reasons, but that it's better to avoid or minimise if possible. St Thomas says the life of a farmer is better for salvation than the life of a moneymaker, because fungible money unleashes avarice in a way that material goods can't (I'm paraphrasing badly, but this is the gist). Patristic writing on money is scathing. In general, traditional teaching sees money and money-getting as very, very dangerous to salvation.

What's more, I think it's tougher than the teaching on sexual morality because the latter may or may not be *easy* to obey, but it's at least *simple*. For laypeople, money is far more complicated and full of nuances. When does prudent planning become avarice? When is it a good idea to donate to that monastery, and when would it be foolish? How much time should I spend managing my investments without worrying unduly? Plus the existence of rich or very comfortable Catholics who are now saints or blesseds; but equally, the existence of rich or comfortable Catholics who seem a little too comfortable in this world. On top of this, we all live in a greedy world where one must, to a degree, behave in seemingly-avaricious ways simply to survive. It seems full of difficulties.

I can think of four reasons that avarice is rarely mentioned in sermons (all understandable -- no condemnation of the priests intended):

1) Unlike sexual sins, many sins of avarice are venial, so it's less of a pastoral crisis
2) Traditional and conservative priests are afraid of seeming socialist, and/or of seriously upsetting their congregations
3) Protestant and Anglo-Enlightenment influence on Catholic teaching, at least in the Anglophone world. Protestants typically see no tension between wealth and salvation. Locke, etc, have made people see money-making as the supreme end of public life. This has affected Catholics.
4) It's a complicated topic and can't be easily covered in a sermon.

Hopefully this isn't OT. It's something that's struck me a lot recently. Ex Voce Catholic teaching on money does seem to have changed in the past century or two.

Boniface said...


I don't think that's the same. The Church's pastors merely not speaking much about a doctrine is different than them actively promoting a contrary one.

Noucvnt said...

it's not the same, but doesn't mean teaching against avarice and usury is not relevant, if anything it is much more so now, seeing as materialists on both libertarian capitalist and totalitarian socialist ends want to crush the Faith